There was some turbulence in Texas this Saturday.
And it fouled up some flight plans.
Friends of Destiny
There are only two teams left who can run their slate and set a flight date for Miami.
- Texas Tech: The biggest pothole in their route is gone, as Tech won’t be facing another team higher ranked for the rest of their season. But the next two obstacles aren’t much easier to get around: an Oklahoma State team that controls its own destiny in the BIg 12 is coming to Lubbock for the Night of the Nouveau Riche this Saturday, and the Red Raiders must take a road trip to Norman to see the jet-fueled Sooners. I slate Tech first here because I think, in a home game against Okie State, a road game against an Oklahoma team Mike Leach has beaten before when there was more defensive talent in Norman, a potential come-down visit from Baylor, and the Big 12 Championship, Tech’s got a substantially easier road than Alabama. Having a bye week between two of the Big 12 South leviathans helps, but no shadow of the suddenly incandescent Florida Gators is the key.
- Alabama: I called Alabama’s schedule the toughest of the unbeatens’ as of last week, and it remains that way. Baton Rouge will welcome Nick Saban with all manner of pitchforks and improvised incendiary devices, and you can be certain there will be more than a modicum of vengeance in the Bayou Bengals’ minds, after getting embarrassed by the SEC East. Mississippi State could go Crooming once more, though the game isn’t in the Delta Bermuda Triangle that is Starkville. And though the Iron Bowl is on paper a game in which Rammer Jammer could be favored by three touchdowns, Auburn may be playing for Tommy Tuberville’s job and would love nothing more than to torpedo ‘Bama’s title hopes with what would be a huge upset. At the end of that road, this team gets rewarded with Florida, unless something unfathomable happens to the Gators. ‘Bama’s work is far from done.
Puckering Up for Destiny
These two teams are next in line for the BCS Championship should the teams above falter.
- Penn State: The Nittany Lions need to win out convincingly and hope Joe Paterno’s got as much sympathy from the voters as conventional wisdom believes. The White and Blue have one road game, at Iowa, and one likely ranked team, Michigan State, left, and they’ll be favored in both of those games and in a home date against Indiana. There’s some danger in the trip to Iowa City, but given how Penn State bottled up Beanie Wells, Shonn Greene may be neutralized quickly; the same goes for the Spartans’ Javon Ringer. And there’s an infinitesimal chance that the overmatched Hoosiers could pull what would be the upset of the season in Happy Valley. But it may not matter if Penn State can’t be persuasive in those wins, as Florida is going to have a more splashy slate to finish and a chance for an emphatic case against Alabama in the SEC Championship. The best-case scenario is Texas Tech losing, because more chaos in the Big 12 can only be good for the Lions; the nightmare is going undefeated and being passed by a one-loss Florida team. Both are conceivable.
- Florida: The Gators established themselves as the class of the one-loss teams with nationally televised woodsheddings of LSU and Georgia, and they’ll have a few more chances to impress, against Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Florida State, and then, in the dream SEC Championship, against Alabama. The road date at Vanderbilt this Saturday screams trap, especially after the emotional win over Georgia, but this team has seemed driven and flop-proof since its loss, and it’s hard to imagine the constellation of talent in orange and blue could fall to offensively neutered Vandy. South Carolina comes to the Swamp for a home game against a less impressive team than the version a less wise Florida team housed 51-31 last year in Columbia. The Florida State game will be similar to Alabama’s date with Auburn, but scarier, as the Seminoles have the talent to compete with the Gators and the sort of offensive schizophrenia that could result in unexpected pyrotechnics that could scorch either squad. Alabama’s the only hip-high hurdle left, and the Gators have looked more impressive than the Crimson Tide in recent weeks. A lot could go wrong, and the gimme against The Citadel isn’t going to help anything, but Gainesville has some reason for exuberance.
Got Transitive Football Herpes From Destiny (And Want Her To Love Someone Else)
These three teams need more than one loss while winning out to get into the title game.
- Oklahoma State: The Cowboys made the mistake of losing to the first of the three Big 12 South titans it played; now, even to get into the Big 12 Championship, the squad from Stillwater needs not only to beat Texas Tech and Oklahoma, but also to hope that those wins lead pollsters and the BCS computers to judge OSU as better than Texas at the end of the regular season. There’s more upward mobility for the ‘Boys than any other team in this column, as they play two teams more highly regarded than they are, one on the road and the other in a rivalry. They also play Colorado, a challenge that should be equal to Barack Obama trying to win his home state of Illinois, and would get either Missouri or Kansas in the Big 12 title game, neither helping their resume much. There’s pretty much no way Okie State leapfrogs Florida without a loss by the Gators, but they can certainly reserve the next place in line.
- Oklahoma: The Sooners find themselves in the exact same situation as their in-state brethren: with a loss to Texas on their resume and hoping for help just to get to that soft drink-sponsored game. Bob Stoops’ crew has an easier path to the spot behind Florida, getting both Texas Tech and Oklahoma State at home, but the tradeoff is that home wins may impress a little less. There’s no reason that, should all the undefeateds lose, this team wouldn’t be checking Orbitz in mid-December, but the Sooners would need to win out to ensure that scenario, and it requires a few upsets out of their control.
- USC: The Trojans fell in the most recent rankings despite tearing into Washington, and it seems clear that the challenges provided by Cal, Stanford, Notre Dame, and UCLA, none with less than two losses, will not be imposing enough for SC to impress. The Men of Troy need both of the current SEC division leaders and Penn State, at least, to lose, though, even in that scenario, a one-loss Texas team would probably stay ahead of the Trojans and meet Texas Tech in Miami should the Red Raiders win out. It’s possible for USC, but, then again, Will Ferrell could also make another funny movie; possibility does not imply likelihood.
Destiny’s Just Not That Into You
The BCS Championship Game is out of reach.
- Boise State/Utah: The Broncos and Utes needed to move up with an undefeated falling on Saturday. That they won’t is just another signal that the mid-majors’ year in the BCS Championship Game is yet to come.
- Georgia: Thanks for playing, Dawgs. Injuries on both lines and a brutal schedule, with a cross-country road game, resurgent Alabama, LSU in Baton Rouge, Florida at Jacksonville, and now no home date until November 29th, KOed the preseason poll darlings, who will be lucky to make a BCS at-large berth after their poor showing this Saturday; they fell out of the top ten in the BCS standings, and don’t have much room to make up for it; plus, the BCS can have no more than two teams from the same conference unless they meet in the BCS title game, meaning that the Bulldogs would need to be selected in lieu of either Florida or Alabama, and that simply won’t happen.
- ACC/Big East Champions: The damage gets worse and worse. I suspect West Virginia’s got a good shot at earning an automatic BCS bid at this point, but the ACC is clearly going to cannibalize itself.
My BCS Guesses
- Rose: USC (Pac-10 champion) vs. Ohio State (at-large)
- Orange: Maryland (ACC champion) vs. West Virginia (Big East champion)
- Fiesta: Oklahoma State (Big 12 champion) vs. Boise State (WAC champion, automatic bid)
- Sugar: Alabama (SEC champion) vs. Texas (at-large)
- BCS Championship: Penn State (BCS #1) vs. Florida (BCS #2)